Following a month mostly free of NFL news, the landscape of the league will change significantly in the coming weeks with the start of the new league year and free agency in mid-March. A couple weeks later, the NFL Draft (April 26) will channel brilliant young talent into the pro level.
In most years, finding a franchise quarterback via free agency or the draft is a near impossible task. But this year, both free agency and the draft pool are full of potential superstars at the quarterback position that can step in from Day 1 and make a big impact. These are the big names on the market who could be the man a quarterback-needy team needs.
Quarterback Needy Teams: Jets, Bills, Dolphins, Browns, Bengals, Broncos, Giants, Vikings, Cardinals
Free Agent Quarterbacks
Kirk Cousins (29 years, 93.7 passer rating, 1x Pro Bowl)
Best Fits: Broncos, Vikings, Cardinals, Jets
The former Redskins star is the biggest name to hit the free agency market since Peyton Manning in 2012, and for good reason. Cousins has topped 4,000 passing yards and 25 touchdowns each of the past three seasons and will likely become the highest-paid player in NFL history. While rebuilding teams like the Cardinals and Jets could offer big bucks, contracts with the Vikings and Broncos are especially enticing as Cousins could be the last piece each team needs to contend for a title.
Case Keenum (30 years, 86.0 passer rating)
Best Fits: Vikings, Giants, Jets, Cardinals
The journeyman Keenum had a breakout season as the third-string option-turned-star in Minnesota, culminating in an NFC Championship appearance. Despite his success, the Vikes are letting him test the free agency waters. Keenum could replicate his success with former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur with the New York Giants or join a quarterback-needy team, but he will have to prove that last year’s magic was no fluke.
Teddy Bridgewater (25 years, 86.3 passer rating)
Best Fits: Vikings, Cardinals, Dolphins
A couple years ago, Teddy Bridgewater looked like Minnesota’s franchise quarterback. But a serious knee injury prior to the 2016 season sent Bridgewater to the bench and he hasn’t returned to meaningful action since. The team that gives Bridgewater a contract would be gambling on his health, but if the gamble pays off it could transform a franchise.
Sam Bradford (30 years, 85.1 passer rating)
Best Fits: Broncos, Browns, Bills
The third Vikings quarterback on this list and a former Rookie of the Year, Bradford has struggled to establish himself as an NFL starter due to his spotty health record (he has started all 16 games only twice in seven seasons). Bradford could be a Day 1 starter with some teams but isn’t a long term solution
Tyrod Taylor (28 years, 91.2 passer rating)
Best Fits: Bills, Broncos, Cardinals
The man who brought the Bills to their first playoff berth since 1999 could be on his way out just months later. The dual-threat Taylor has had an inconsistent tenure with Buffalo, including one midseason benching this year, and his obvious talents would be maximized elsewhere. A return to Buffalo shouldn’t be ruled out, however.
[Post-script: Taylor was traded to the Cleveland Browns]
First Round Quarterbacks
Sam Darnold, Southern Cal
Best Fits: Browns, Giants, Broncos
The USC product has the skills to be the number one pick in the draft. If Darnold cuts down on his turnovers, he has the steady build and arm talent to grow into an MVP candidate. Expect him to go within the first five picks of the NFL Draft.
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Best Fits: Giants, Jets, Broncos, Dolphins
At times, Rosen has looked like a better NFL quarterback than Darnold and there is no denying his talent. But Rosen’s brash demeanor and opposition to being on the Browns (owners of two of the first four picks in the draft) could lead to a draft-day slide.
Josh Allen, Wyoming
Best Fits: Jets, Broncos, Dolphins, Cardinals
Josh Allen emerged as a dark-horse candidate for the first overall pick and had the best combine performance of the three. Since he played at a smaller school than UCLA or USC and didn’t dominate competition last fall, Allen also comes with the most risk, but has a sky-high ceiling.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Best Fits: Dolphins, Redskins, Chargers, Saints
Perhaps the most polarizing player in the draft, last season’s Heisman winner could go anywhere from the top ten picks to the second round. Mayfield’s size (6 ft 1) raises questions about his prospects at the NFL level, while his erratic behavior has drawn comparisons to Johnny Manziel. Any team that takes a gamble on him could find a franchise quarterback or a first-round bust.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Best Fits: Jaguars, Vikings, Bills
Lamar Jackson is another Heisman winner that teams could take a chance on in Round 1. Jackson offers eye-popping athleticism along with a solid arm and a steady personality, though his slight frame (6’3”, 200 pounds) caused scouts to ponder whether he should move to receiver.
Other Available Quarterbacks
Nick Foles (29 years, 87.4 passer rating, 1x Pro Bowl)
Josh McCown (38 years, 80.8 passer rating)
Eli Manning (37 years, 83.5 passer rating, 4x Pro Bowl)
Mike Glennon (28 years, 83.2 passer rating)
A.J. McCarron (27 years, 93.6 passer rating)
Blaine Gabbert (28 years, 71.5 passer rating)
Trevor Siemian (26 years, 79.9 passer rating)